On Monday, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery added two new, history making pieces. Against the backdrop of Black History Month, the Gallery unveiled the official portraits of the forty-fourth President of the United States, Barack Obama, and his wife, Michelle Obama. Commissioned by the Portrait Gallery, New York-based artist Kehinde Wiley and Baltimore-based portrait artist Amy Sherald were chosen by the former POTUS and FLOTUS to portray them. Wiley , well known for his large-scale portraits of African-Americans, was selected by President Obama, while Sherald, an artist who takes a conceptual approach to her work (rather than a photorealistic one), was selected by Michelle Obama.
When I first saw the headline at the Root “Black Twitter tells some white dude named Michael Rapaport to keep Janet Jackson’s name out of his mouth“, my first reaction was “Who?”. His name sounded rather familiar, in that “didn’t I see this XXX film recently with a guy who had that last name” kinda way. Thankfully this is the Age of Google, and it only takes a few strokes–keyboard strokes–to find out all there is to know about the dude who swerved out of his lane and into incoming traffic. It turns out Michael Rapaport is an actor. Dun dun duuuuuuun. And a director. A podcast host. A writer. A media personality. Oh, and a comedian. Dude wears a lot of masks. Maybe he’s having a crisis of self, and is trying his hand at a bunch of different things to see what works. I can’t tell if his offending Tweet was meant to Rapaport the comedian or Rapaport the media personality, but either way, this ass ran headlong into oncoming traffic when he decided to cry Janet and let slip his smug ignorance:
Discussion of sexual assault, sexual harassment
One thing I’ve seen in discussions about rape and sexual assault over the years is that many men have a poor or nonexistent understanding of power differentials (though men aren’t the only ones who have this problem, I’m speaking here to guys bc we are the people responsible for the majority of sexual assaults). To be sure, there are men who feign a lack of understanding, but actually
know damn well what power differentials are. I’m not speaking to that group in this post (other than to say that you’re predatory assholes).
For those trying to wrap their mind around the concept of a power differential for the first time, I invite you to think of your current occupation and/or any classes you may be taking. Think about who your boss (manager or owner). Think about your instructors. If you *are* the boss or instructor, think about the employees you have or the students in your care.
For some, the holiday season is a joyful one. To these people, the holiday season is for spending time reconnecting with friends and family, shopping, dining, gathering, wrapping, singing, and generally celebrating the season regardless of one’s religious beliefs or lack thereof. This is the group that society recognizes the existence of. Multibillion dollar corporations spend significant amounts of money catering to the people in this group. One of the most significant cultural holidays–Christmas–is a national holiday. People plan their vacations around this time of year. Public schools take a winter break during this period as well. If you’re someone who celebrates the holiday season, no matter how you celebrate it or what religion you do or don’t belong to, your existence is recognized. If you enjoy Christmas caroling, participating in religious plays celebrating the season, or even sending out holiday cards, your participation in cultural traditions reinforces the idea that the holidays are a thrilling time of year.
Don’t get me wrong…it can be and is.
For some people.
Not so for others.
Despite the slogans and Christmas songs and holiday movies and candy canes and family feasts, for many people, this is not the most wonderful time of year.
Discussion of sexual harassment and sexual assault, mention of victim blaming
Having a good sense of hearing is, generally speaking, a useful tool for people working in the service industry. It certainly is for me as a bartender. In my 17 years pouring drinks, I can’t recall how many times it has come in handy. Often, I’ll be in the process of helping one group of people decide what they want to drink when another group sits down at the bar. While making the drinks for group one, it is not unusual for me to overhear what group two is deciding to drink and, if they settle upon something, for me to make their drinks and greet them with their cocktails (or beer/wine as the case may be). Many a guest has remarked at how impressed they are that I can hear conversations in a bar with loud patrons and/or music. Sometimes that hearing can lead to awkward moments, like the times I’ve happened to hear people discussing sexual activities. Other times, it can lead to commiserations, such as a recent chat three people were having about the challenges they faced with caring for an elderly family member and the additional difficulties of that family member having dementia.
(Before I go any further, I want to make one thing clear: I am not in any way trying to eavesdrop on guests. Between my hearing and the relatively small size of my bar, (comfortably seats 12 people) it’s hard NOT to hear what people are saying, unless they are speaking softly (which isn’t something most patrons at a bar tend to do; certainly not these two guys) ).
Then there are the decidedly unfun, so-frustrating-I-want-to-pull-my hair-out conversations that I’d be happy to never hear again.
Like the one I heard yesterday between two guys. They were complaining about the #MeToo hashtag and the ever growing list of men who have been publicly accused of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault. Sadly, like many men (and more than a handful of women and non-men), these guys had doubts about the allegations. One of them brought up the fact that many of the victims waited decades before speaking up about their assault. I was supposed to be ringing in the food order for another guest, but as I stood at the computer, all I could do was shake my head in frustration. Frustration bc those two guys sounded like countless other men online or in meatspace who leap to defend the accused (that frustration was made worse bc I wanted to speak up, but A: I was also tending to other guests, B: the two guys did not seem reasonable on this subject, C: I would have had to spend time I didn’t have engaging the two louts to effectively counter their bullshit, and D: even if I did have time, I would have to figure out–on the fly–the most polite way to express myself so as to ensure I still got tipped, since I do go to work to get paid). They sounded like many Rape Culture apologists. The ones who say things like:
“They’re in it for the money.”
“They’re doing it for the attention.”
“It wasn’t sexual assault. It was regret sex.”
“it’s a conspiracy to bring down powerful men.”
“whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?”
“If they really were assaulted or harassed, they would have gone to the police right after it happened.”
Check out the comments on any article about sexual harassment or sexual assault. Whether it’s a local newspaper or a nationally renowned publication, you are almost guaranteed to find comments of a similar nature. They betray a great deal of ignorance (and demonstrate a lack of compassion) on the part of the speaker and they send a message to victims and assailants alike: sexual harassment and sexual assault should be treated with immediate skepticism and doubt. The thing is, these are the only crimes in which the default position is one of doubt. For other crimes, victims are believed and their claims treated as truthful (until and unless evidence is discovered that disputes their claims). That is fucked up and absolutely should not be the case. In my opinion,
believing victims should be the default
Once upon a time, in a land across the country, there existed a woman. This woman was mother to a 10-month-old. One day, the two of them set out on a journey to the house of the mouse in Anaheim, California. While they were there, her child became hungry, and the woman found herself facing a critical decision: “do I feed my child like any loving parent would, regardless of when and where” or “do I say screw it kid. You can starve” ? In short time, she made her decision and boy was it shocking: she chose to breastfeed her 10-month-old. Right then and there,
International Men’s Day.
A day that’s All About the Menz.
Collectively, how did MRA’s spend it?
From a socio-political perspective, this past year has been a cosmic-level trashfire. Hell, one could make the argument that this quagmire we’re all trying our best to cope with began the day Cheeto Hitler declared his intent to run for president. Following his win, it has been a never-ending battle to minimize the harm he has sought to cause. In many cases, that harm has centered around attempting to eliminate the achievements of his predecessor, President Obama. He pulled the United States out of the Paris Accords (with Nicaragua and Syria having signed the Accords, the United States is the only major country in the world to refuse the deal), rejected the Iran Nuclear Deal, and he has pushed over and over again for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (not caring that such a move would lead to roughly 32 million people–on top of the millions without coverage already–without healthcare coverage by 2026).
When he’s not trying to undo President Obama’s legacy, the bigoted bumblefuck has been aggressively working on his grand plan to Make America Great Again For Those Poor Persecuted and Aggrieved White Men, The Last Demographic Deemed Socially Acceptable To Discriminate Against (this, despite the fact that white men experience no measurable discrimination based on their race or gender). More a back of the beverage napkin drunken bucket list than a meticulously composed, well thought out, evidence based course of action, this grand plan (which honestly can’t really be called a plan) has included:
- pardoning the guilty and virulently racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio who really should have been imprisoned for the rest of his life (which is probably 10 years at best, given his age)
- attacking the Mayor of Puerto Rico (on more than one level, as the Petulant Pissant never wastes an opportunity to “put women in their place ” by indulging his sexist side) and blaming Puerto Ricans for not doing enough to repair their own island in the wake of Hurricane Maria (and don’t forget his declaration about the great job he has done, and throwing fucking paper towels at Puerto Ricans)
- rejecting any influence on the the 2016 presidential election by Russia and claiming (without a shred of evidence to support his position) that widespread voter fraud led to Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote instead of him
- undermining faith in and credibility of the Presidency with his inability to inform his statements with facts and evidence
- taking aim at Freedom of the Press by openly speculating on how he could censor media outlets that do not kiss his ass
- referring to NFL players protesting over police brutality and systemic racism in the United States as “sons of bitches” and calling for them to be fired
- disrespecting the family of a fallen U.S. soldier *and* the soldier himself (that he can bring himself to chastise anti-racist advocates for disrespecting U.S. soldiers, while he does that very thing is maddening)
- ending workplace protections for transgender people
- granting white supremacist fuckhead Steve Bannon a role in his administration, as well as nominating the Racist Ratfucker himself, Jeff “the Confederate loving, should have been born 150 years ago “Sessions, to Attorney General
- Muslim Ban 1, Muslim Ban 2, Muslim Ban 3
- seeking to punish ‘Sanctuary Cities’ for not participating in or supporting the federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants
- That Fucking Wall
- Refusing to 100% condemn white supremacist violence in Charlottesville “but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides”, “I think there’s blame on both sides […]
- threatening federal funding for UC-Berkeley for shutting down one of his staunchest supporters, a speaker well known for ginning up hatred against women, gays, Blacks, Muslims, immigrants, and transgender people and who thinks of himself as a “provocateur” who is spreading truths that others are too fearful to speak (I refer to that wretched waste of space, Milo Yiannopoulous), and who has–on more than one occasion–referred to the Orange Menace as “Daddy”***
That’s not a comprehensive list, by the way. With the exception of maybe three items, those incidents were off the top of my head. Being an authoritarian bully and a fascist-leaning, racist rapist, who speaks without any care or concern for what he says or how he says it pretty much guarantees that anything he says or does during his tenure is going to, at the very least, piss people the fuck off. I really don’t want to imagine what his list of “accomplishments” will look like come the end of his term (which will hopefully be the only one).
Making matters worse for those of us who realize that “Make America Great Again” is a dog whistle is that the GOP controls so much of the federal government. You’d think that if one of the two major political parties in this country gained as much power as the GOP currently has, they might be able to get significant legislation through. Heck, they might even do something wild and totally unheard of like, oh, I don’t know…GOVERN. Alas, all they seem capable of doing is introducing legislation to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (they’ve backed away from that for now, but I am confident think they’ll be back at it in the spring of 2018).
You know, that’s not fair. Sure the Bigoted Blowhard is so incompetent that brokering a peace deal between kindergartners (let alone war-torn nations embroiled in combat whose origins reach back centuries) is far outside his wheelhouse and sure his party has tried (and largely failed) to keep out immigrants and MuslimsAnd never mind that he and his administration (and by extension, the Republican Party) have had success in one area: the advancement of progressive social or political agendas that benefit people other than rich, white men have been stifled. With these people in power, the best we’ve been able to hope for all year is that we’ll be able to minimize the damage he and the GOP want to cause. There certainly wasn’t any hope on the horizon that things would get better.
At least, not until Tuesday night.
50-year-old Patrick Harmon (an African-American male) was executed by Salt Lake City police officers on August 13. Harmon, who was riding his bicycle when at the time, was pulled over by a police officer who claimed Harmon crossed six lanes and was missing his required red tail light. He wasn’t killed for the infraction, which surprises me, given the trigger happy, racist cops we have in this country. Initially calm, Harmon became increasingly agitated, especially when backup arrived and his record was pulled. It was pretty much all over at that point, bc the officers discovered Harmon had felony warrants out in his name (for aggravated assault), and proceeded to arrest him. Upset, Harmon turned away from the three police officers and bolted. Unfortunately for Harmon, one of our country’s finest (Clinton Fox, who decided to wear his Judge-Jury-Executioner hat) can be heard saying “I’ll fucking shoot you!” Three shots later, he does just that. If you’re a reasonable person looking for a justification for this extrajudicial murder by cop, you aren’t likely to find it. There is nothing in the video that offers a justification for him opening fire. Take a look:
The last thing I remember reading about before I went to sleep Sunday night (early Monday, technically) was the headline of a USA Today article about police officers responding to reports of an active shooter in Las Vegas. I hoped then that the shooter would either kill himself (in the United States, mass shooters are invariably men) or be killed before wounding anyone. I awoke Monday morning to find that the shooter–Stephen Paddock–had killed over 50 people and injured more than 400 (before killing himself) in the greatest mass shooting in modern United States history. Throughout the course of my workday, I was able to keep an eye on the news (we had it on one tv and it was slow for a while) and saw the number of casualties rise to 59 dead and 527 injured. Country music artist Jason Aldean had just taken the stage for day 3 of the Route 91 music festival when the shooting began. An estimated 22,000 concertgoers were in the crowd when the shooting began, which maximized the number of people Paddock could kill.
As with the 272 previous mass shootings this year, there are many questions about the killer and his motives. In the days, weeks, and months ahead, authorities will likely uncover some answers (though not all, since Paddock killed himself). For many people, one of the most important questions–“Why did this happen?”–has an easy answer. One that is apparent even before the dust has settled. It will surprise few people to learn that once again, mental illness is blamed for gun violence.